U.S. Senators Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska) and John Thune (R- South Dakota) today offered an amendment to legislation before the Senate that would give Nebraska and South Dakota authority over potential land acquisitions by the federal government along the Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation areas. Unfortunately, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) refused to allow this or any other amendments to the legislation, and it failed to advance.
“Nebraskans are already good stewards of their environment and understand better than anyone the needs of the land they care for and depend on,” Johanns said. “The federal government’s plan to acquire hundreds of thousands of acres of land has made Nebraskans uneasy from the get-go. A plan of this size and scope deserves thorough input from the men and women who understand it best. Once again, important legislation has been blocked by Majority Leader Reid’s failure to let the Senate run as intended.”
“Nebraskans have been rightly troubled by the federal government’s attempt to seize control of such a vast quantity of private land since the Department of Interior’s plan was first announced,” Fischer said. “Our amendment would have granted greater local control to the Nebraskans who have proudly and responsibly taken care of the resources there for so long. I’m disappointed Majority Leader Reid has yet again refused to allow senators to represent their constituents and blocked our effort to stop this misguided government overreach.”
“The federal government’s proposed land acquisition in southeast South Dakota and northeast Nebraska is concerning given its poor track record in managing the land it already owns,” said Thune. “This amendment would ensure that South Dakota’s and Nebraska’s governors and state legislatures play a deciding role in how the proposed Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Areas are managed going forward. I am disappointed that Majority Leader Reid has blocked this and all other amendments from receiving votes.”The amendment would have prevented Department of Interior (DoI) from spending funds to acquire land along the Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation areas unless explicitly approved by the state government in which the land is located. As it currently stands, the proposal could result in government control or management of up to 1.4 million acres of land in South Dakota and Nebraska. The senators have previously urged DoI to abandon these proposals, citing proper existing private-federal partnerships and conservation programs along the area.